Mental Illness in Kids- Warning Signs

Kids just like adults are plagued with mental disorders. Statistics show that at least one out of every five kids has mental disorders and in advanced cases, this greatly affects their day to day interactions with others. Many parents are afraid to deal with the reality or common signs that lead to this illness.

Sudden change of behavior may not what a parent may think it is. These changes could be the potential leads to mental illness. Among the early signs of mental disorders include; indicate depression, intense fears or phobias, worries or sudden withdrawal from people that lasts for many weeks. However, there are several warning signs that as a parent, you may take note of.

Mood Swings Lasting For Weeks

Sudden change of moods is usual in kids as they may be facing some personal challenges. However, long lasting mood swings is a strong indicator of a serious mental disorder. The child comes from being active to being melancholy in a short period of time without a good reason. This maybe an indicator of mania depressive disorder and in the long run, the kid’s social and academic life will be affected greatly.

Childhood bipolar is characterized by rapid mood swings and hyper activeness. If it lasts for weeks, the child needs psychotherapy and medication in order to control their moods. Otherwise, this disorder is likely to affect a child’s mental wellbeing greatly.

Excessive Phobias and Worries

While this may be normal in the early stages of life for every human being, for example toddlers fear the dark or being separated from their parents. However, when normal age based fears exceed a certain age and interfere with how a kid goes about their daily activities, as a parent, this should capture your attention.

Kids with a specific worry or phobia for something are usually anxious may be candidates for this illness. They may complain of physical fear but deep down they are expressing their worry over something. This should be communicated to a physician for clear diagnosis and medication or therapy.

Extreme Change in Behavior

Kids like challenging and question authority from their elders. This is common irrespective of a kid’s age. However, the contention comes in if the kid is challenging authority willingly since he has a motive behind it. A child may be playing defiance just for the sake of it without any genuine motive behind it. This is called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OOD). This disorder in the long run, leads to other serious mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar.

Physical Changes like Weight Loss or Gain

A greater number of mental disorder patients are obese or overweight. In most cases, they may be suffering from eating disorder that is one of the mental illnesses. In kids, if this does not come with changes from puberty stage, this maybe a strong indicator of mental sickness.

However, weight loss is brought about by depression which is one of the characteristics of mental disorder. At times, kids may find solace in drugs, by doing ‘self-medication’ when in depression. Studies show that depression can be genetically transferred to kids if both parents suffered from the illness.

Loss of Focus or Concentration

Commonly referred to as schizophrenia, this mental disorder makes patients lose touch with the reality. For kids, it comes with trouble in focusing or sitting still leading to poor performance in their education irrespective of their age. The inability to concentrate in simple activities such as television watching may come as a result of excessive thoughts stemming from guilt or shame. In advanced cases, the child may even think of committing suicide. 

Types of Mental Illness

Mental illness impacts negatively on one’s thinking, moods or feelings. The most common reasons for mental disorders are feelings of disorders, sadness in some moments and anxiety. These feelings overwhelm people and may cause great difficulty in coping with daily activities like work, enjoying their leisure time or even maintaining relationships withy people.

Mental disorders is not as result of one happening. Only in rare cases that it causes psychosis. Interlinking reasons to mental illness include genetics, environment and the type of lifestyle one leads. There are different degrees and types of mental illness severity

Anxiety Disorder

This illness is common and affects a large number of the world’s population. Patients experience distress and bouts of fear and in extreme cases apprehension. Patients will seem to be doing monologues or public speaking with no target audience.

Symptoms- Extensive damage of the disorder come after six or more months. However, before then, patients experience panic attacks, nightmares, dreading going out of the house, physical pains like nausea and obsessive thoughts. In addition, they respond to certain situations with fear leading to increased heart beats and uncontrolled responses such as screams.

Treatment- Psychotherapy and meditation are the major types of medication for this disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients to respond constructively to phobias like fear. Medication is majorly given as antidepressants.

Mood Disorders

This are severe moody symptoms and disruptions that impact negatively on patients both mental and psychological wellbeing almost on a daily basis. It is estimated that at least 1 out of 10 persons suffer from this illness. If untreated for a long period, it may lead to other diseases like diabetes and heart disease. However with proper treatment they can have productive and normal live in the future.

Symptoms- Unstable relationships, distorted self-image, chronic feelings of being bored or empty, though disconnection among others.

Treatment- Dialectical behavioral therapy is used to teach patients on how to improve relationships while adding validation. The illness has no specific medication but patients are given mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety drugs.

Psychotic Disorders

This serious illness causes a disconnection between the emotional and cognitive functions in the brain. It affects the basic life aspects of human such as language and perception.

Symptoms- Psychotic disorder is characterized by hearing voices, delusions, abnormal reasoning and social withdrawals. In extreme cases, it leads to incoherent speech making victims unable to interact with other people.

Treatment- While medication and psychotherapy are the most recommended treatment options for this disorder, ECT may also be considered especially in cases of severe psychosis. This is because it’s effective in enhancing the transmission of short electrical impulses into the brain.


Dementia is the disruption of one’s conciseness hence affecting the patient’s cognitive health, for example skills due to memory loss. According to research, women are more vulnerable to suffer from dementia unlike men. However, statistics show that many people suffer from dementia after a traumatic accident or military combat.

Symptoms- Memory loss of specific times, people or events, lack of self-identity, detachment from emotions, anxiety and depression. In extreme cases, there may be thoughts of committing suicide. Advanced cases of dementia lead to the Alzheimer’s disease.

Treatment- This disorder can be managed through psychotherapies like dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition medications such as use of antidepressants can treat the condition.

Eating Disorders

Studies show that at least 1 out of 20 people suffers from this disorder and this may lead to fatal medical condition s. It is basically a preoccupied with food and not checking one’s weight. However, it may also lead to reduction in food intake in other cases where patients take smaller food potions than usual.

Symptoms- Over, eating, less concern of one’s weight, poor self-image and feeling depresses or distressed.

Treatment- A variety of ways are there to treat this condition. Psychotherapy and medication work well. However, nutritional counselling together with weight restoration monitoring can be effective for both the old and young, advocating for better eating habits.

Mental health

Mental health refers to psychological well-being or the state of absence or presence of a mental disorder. Thousands of people amongst us are not mentally well. However, most of the times, we turn a blind eye on them, that's probably because we can't really observe the physical symptoms of psychological disorders - behavioral or emotional. So, in order to understand those who are dear to our hearts, we need to enlarge our patience scale and reflect upon their sudden outbursts or mood swings solemnly, rather than angrily.

How to Recognize a Mentally Unwell Individual around You:

Mental illnesses are often referred to as Neurobiological disorders. There are many different states and conditions which are labeled as mental illnesses. Some common disorders are:

Anxiety Disorders and Mood Swings:

People suffering from anxiety disorders are often scared, or are afraid of certain situations and on encountering them, they suffer from anxiety and fear, often accompanied by sweating, fast heartbeat and nausea (panic attacks). The individual having anxiety disorders cannot control their responses properly either and suffer from phobias too.

Psychotic Disorders:


Psychotic disorders refer to an unstable state of mind. Such individuals are often delusional and hallucinate too. They might be disconnected from reality at times and have distorted thinking.

Eating Disorders:

These disorders include extreme behaviors and responses of individuals regarding weight and physical appearance. So when very lean or thin family member starts refusing meals because they think they are overweight, you need to get alerted.

Impulse Control and Addiction Disorders:

People with these disorders are unable to resist urges and impulses that might prove harmful to themselves as well as others around them. They start to ignore and shut out family members and loved ones in order to satisfy their urges.

Obsessive-Compulsive disorder:

Individuals suffering from OCD often perform certain rituals or routines in response to some stimuli to such an extreme extent that it becomes abnormal for example, excessive washing of hands.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Stress Response Syndromes:

People who have gone through adisturbing incident in their lives often show symptoms of PTSD. They tend to be emotionally unstable and cannot react to emotional situations normally.

Supporting and Dealing with Mentally Unwell People:

The major point that everyone needs to understand is that it's not your fault that your loved one is suffering from such an illness, neither can you cure it. However, you can help them effectively in many ways. A few of them are mentioned below;

Accept It and Be Patient:

You need to accept that your family member is mentally ill and you need to get over it fast. Certain families tend to be emotionally over involved, others are cold and blame the patient- neither of which helps, rather worsens the situation. There's a difference between being helpful and being overwhelming, you have to understand that.

Educate Yourself About the Disorder:

Finding out about the disorder and learning every aspect of it helps a lot. Read different books and articles, consult the patient's doctors. In this way, you'd be aware of the various symptom and effective ways to respond to them. You'd be able to communicate with the patient more easily and understand them in depth thus creating a friendly atmosphere for the patient in the house.

Don't Try To Reason With The Patient:

The patient is in such a condition that he/she cannot think rationally. So arguing with them or trying to make them see sense is fruitless. Let the doctors do that job for them, you cannot cure them, all you can do is be sympathetic and understand them.

Keep Realistic Expectations:

There is not a well-defined period of recovery for these disorders. It may take days, months or even years. Similarly, once these illnesses are cured, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will not strike again. Despite your efforts, the symptoms may worsen or they might get better, you can never predict. Have patience and be understanding!

Treat them normally:

Let the patients have some control of their lives when they've recovered a bit. Such patients often feel as though they've lost control and purpose of their lives, so you need to encourage them to take part in everyday chores, have fun with them, don't let go of your sense of humor and let them take their decisions by themselves. Don't treat them as the "sick one" or render them separate from the family. Don't let them lose control, though. For example, if you feel that they are neglecting their medications or involved in self-harm, you should stop them immediately.

Stay Calm And Hopeful:

The last thing and the worst thing that you can do to your loved one in such a situation is to get panicked or lose hope. Be optimistic and spread positivity around, so that they can feel the positive vibes too. Remember, it's hard for them to accept too, so don't be hard on them.

Accept your Feelings: It's hard for you too. Don't neglect yourself and take time out for yourself. You will realize with the passage of time that you are not alone, many people suffer this situation. Reach out to them. Join support groups. Don't stress yourself too much. Getting some help for you or consulting a psychiatrist might be a good idea too.